Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir addressed the audience at the Arctic Circle conference yesterday. In her speech, Katrín warned that if sufficient action wasn’t taken today, the arctic could “become unrecognisable” in the future.
Facilitating dialogue between interested parties
The Arctic Circle is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organisation founded by former President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former publisher Alice Rogoff, and former Premier of Greenland Kuupik Kleist, among others. The organisation aims to facilitate dialogue between governments, organisations, corporations, universities, think tanks, environmental associations, indigenous communities, concerned citizens, and other stakeholders to address issues facing the Arctic as a result of climate change and melting sea ice.
During the opening of the 2022 Arctic Circle Assembly yesterday, October 13, at the Harpa Conference Hall in Reykjavík, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir addressed the audience. Katrín began her speech on a note of positivity, acknowledging the “broad political determination” to protect the Arctic and capitalise on present opportunities:
“On the positive side, we see expanding scientific networks, greater knowledge with both the public and businesses and growing skills, there is more investment in green technology, and we are witnessing various green solutions emerging.” However, Katrín noted, the Arctic could become “unrecognisable in a few decades” if further decisive action was not taken.
“Everything is changing – we see more extreme weathers around the globe – only in the last two weeks we saw hundreds of trees here in Iceland being ripped up by their roots because of extreme storms in the eastern part of the country. We see glaciers receding, permafrost is melting, heat records are beaten and forests are burning. And all this is happening much faster in the Arctic – where the ecosystem is sensitive and the resources are great.”
Some of these resources, Katrín noted, should not be meddled with: “We see big business and big countries showing more and more interest in the Arctic – not least because of its rich resources which should not all be harnessed. I applaud the decision of the government of Greenland not to drill for oil – my government has also declared that we will not issue licences for oil exploration in Iceland’s exclusive economic zone and this will be put into legislation.”
Condemning the war in Ukraine
Alongside addressing climate-related issues in the Arctic, Katrín also turned her attention to the war in Ukraine and the exclusion of Russia from the Council: “Our region is directly affected as the aggressor is an important player in the Arctic with legitimate interests. But Russia’s illegitimate actions made it impossible for us not to respond and they were rightly excluded from the Arctic Council. From day one Iceland has condemned Russia’s aggression in the strongest possible way. Iceland has solidly supported Ukraine, and we will continue to do so, together with our Nordic, European, US, and Canadian friends.”
Katrín concluded her speech with a nod to the massiveness of the task lying ahead:
“This room is full of hope and concerns for the future of the Arctic. We represent different interests, different politics, different ideas. But we should all be united in the will to protect the Arctic and provide a sustainable future for the local populations in the area, as well as for our ecosystems. The task is massive, but the solutions exist, it is ours to get the job done.”